Archive for March, 2009


Today we finished our puppet assembly tying a ribbon around our water-colored kimonos. We have glued on heads and collars as well. We are ready to rehearse our collectively-written Japan story.


We have continued to practice number sentences focusing on subtraction, and moving to the left on the number line. We have been using both horizontal and vertical equations, and the friends have been taught to check their work using addition. Our next group of lessons focuses on “fact families” and writing our own equations. For example, if I give them this set (4,3,7), the fact family would consist of:


4+3=7, 3+4=7, 7-4=3, and 7-3=4


This skill involves number recognition, numerical notation, and both processes of addition and subtraction. Learning the inverse of a process is also an important critical thinking process for checking our work!



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Spring is here, albeit brief reminders that we live in New England, and the sun and warmth are still very sporadic! In the morning, we still have fire in the wood stove, but by afternoon, we are outdoors for 30 minutes or so, playing among the rocks, forsythia huts, the fairy (fire) circle, and the beech grove.

We are using our number lines in math to solve number sentences in addition and subtraction. Friends work in pairs to solve problems, check their work, and make progress. We are working on focus—being able to sit for 20 to 30 minutes and work on various tasks, and not be distracted by other friends and their words/work. It is a challenge, but needs to be learned!

We have started our story about Japan that we will perform for Ruth on Friday, April 3rd, at our next visit. (It is a collective story that friends each contribute to, and it incorporates some of the aspects of Japan we have learned.) Today we also began assembly of our Emperor and Empress puppets (I suspect some of them will be villagers for the puppet show, as not everyone can be the BIG cheeses!), adding color to their faces, and collars so they can be attached to their kimonos.


We have been singing and signing together each day. Ask your friends about the songs, “Heart of the World,” “Valley of Vegetables,” and “My Teacher’s got a Skunk on her Head.” (The first is by Sarah Pirtle, the latter two by Laurie Berkner.) We are getting ready for a show/concert at Elmer’s on Saturday, May 30th. (Mark your calendars and invite your friends and relatives!)

Our reading of Gaia Girls by Lee Welles continues. Friends are learning about the factory farming of pigs, its impact on the environment, and how the earth is the recipient of all of our collective blunders. The story has some very poetic and magical aspects (The main character, Elizabeth, can travel through the root systems of trees, has been transported to a fairy circle filled with concentric circles of violets and buttercups, and converses with Gaia, who has transformed herself into a talking otter.), and friends are learning to listen to the song of the trees and the babbling snow runoff.


April is National Poetry Month, and we’ll be playing more rhyming games with small words, and working on our Peace Travelers Alphabet Book.

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We began our day with our first spirit walk of the spring. We walked silently and observed the spring’s onset with all of our senses. (Both Liam and Rosey were present as they were off from school, and friends welcomed old friends into the fold with both, old and new routines.


During snack we read Japan: A True Book by Ann Heinrichs. Again, we spoke of World War II and its impact on the Japanese people. Please note that I speak this history as well as I can, and in language that tells friends how important it is for us, as American people, to learn other ways to be safe in the world, with all people as our allies, working together. It is a challenge to inform them without making them fearful. They all are respectful of this story telling and story reading time. Later, at lunch, we lightened the mood with a story called “Woe is me bones” as told by Jay O’Callahan. (Ask your friend about it; he is an amazing weaver of tales!)


In mathematics, we made number lines to 20 which will be used to count, add, subtract, and again, reinforce the recognition of odd and even numbers. Odd numbers appear above the line with stars; even numbers are marked underneath the number line with faces. Next week we’ll begin using our number lines and the signs “greater than” (>) and “less than” (<).


We began our Empress and Emperor puppets by making their kimonos with special spring watercolors. Next week we will assemble them and make their faces.






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We began our day reading about Japan and its culture with the book, Counting your way through Japan by Jim Haskins. We have learned about Mt. Fuji, the fierce natural catastrophes in Japan, kimonos, the importance of fishing and rice farming, and the “No” plays used to teach morals or Japanese history.


We are working at categorizing odds and evens with dominoes, and recording/sorting by columns (both odds, both evens, one of each). We have also played dominoes bingo, which assists students in both counting and number recognition. All friends received a small prize for finishing their bingo cards.


We have been updating our Peace Traveler passports with our thumbprints and art projects.



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Today we “flew” to Japan, and discussed its geography and people. We also began our discussion of World War II and its impact on Japan as we read The Wakame Gatherers by Holly Thompson. The story tells of a young girl who lives in Japan with her Japanese grandmother. Her American grandmother from Maine comes to visit, and together the three of them gather wakame, a type of seaweed, from the sea. The young child must translate for each grandmother, and they talk about how, at one time in history, their countries were at war. It is a beautiful book.


This afternoon we celebrated “Wacky Games Day” for Friday, the 13th. Each pair of friends took turns playing connect four, mancala, maask, and castle logic. Emphasis was placed on working at working together and learning to cooperate and checking in with a partner. “What do you think we should do, and  why?” Even in games that were competitive, friends played once or twice and then made patterns together, or modified the games to play together. All the games emphasized memory skills, logic, and strategies, as well as counting. I rotated from game to game, assisting friends in playing and answering their questions.



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Today we bid farewell to Tibet, and put our art project comprised of landscapes of mountains and prayer flags in our passports. Each of the prayer flags contains a sacred symbol of Tibet: a yak, a lotus, the Dalai Lama, and a rider on a horse.


We are playing with our finger alphabet and short rhyming words, practicing reading with adding a first letter to short recognizable sight words. For example, “am” becomes “ram,” “ham,” “dam,” etc. The ASL finger letters assist in keeping phonetic memory “in their bodies.” Ask your friend to demonstrate. (NOTE: It is fine to use nonsense words like “fam,” “nam,” “zam,” etc. These words actually demonstrate their “sound” knowledge.)


In math, we always work in partners, and one friend helps another. We use separate worksheets so all the friends are engaged and developing writing and recording skills. Working with partners teaches them to “check in” with each other and check their answers. It also takes the pressure off: They work side by side focusing on their work and not competing with others.


Our outdoor play is changing with the thaw. Rather than sledding, pretend play in the beech grove and around the fallen birch branches has increased. We tend to go out at the end of the day for 30 to 45 minutes.


We continue our reading of Gaia Girls by Lee Wells. The central character, Elizabeth, along with some supportive parents and neighbors take on a large corporate factory pig farm. Elizabeth is visited by a talking otter (actually Gaia “incarnate”) who teaches Elizabeth about the powers she has to save her family farm, as well as the town she lives in. Gaia speaks of herself as a living organism of which we are all part. Although some of the vocabulary is geared for older children, friends have appreciated the story and seem very engaged in the conflict and drama that is unfolding. 

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This week we are finishing our journey through Tibet, and getting ready to update the passports we’ve been using throughout the year.

In math, we have been continuing our study with sums of two and three dice. The object of playing games and the repetition in throwing dice and recording sums is to have the sums become part of long-term memory. Using manipulatives like dice, dominoes, beans, and stones is a way of making addition fun (using experiential learning) while having addition become part of their skill sets in math. We have been working to understand odd and even numbers. Our cues involve these facts: Even numbers always divide into “pairs of friends,” and odd numbers always have one friend left out. (Use examples at home with your fingers or other objects and have your friend show you what we have been learning with the above cues.)

We traveled to Ruth’s for our monthly visit, and had our “morning circle” with her (in the afternoon). We sang (and signed) some Gaia-based songs about the “Valley of Vegetables” by Laurie Berkner and “the Heart of the World” by Sarah Pirtle. We read the story “Yoshi & the Dakini” from Tibetan Tales for Little Buddhas by Naomi Rose. Yoshi is cared for by her Aunt Peta, who is cruel and impatient. While up in the pasture with her yak herd, Yoshi is drawn into a cave and meets with a wild sow. She listens to the voice of the sow telling her not to fear, and the sow transforms into a dakini, a spirit, who bestows her with sacred teachings. Yoshi learns to let go of her fear of Peta, and radiates love to her. Eventually, Peta realizes that her niece is blessed with these sacred teachings, and asks to be a student. Both Peta and Yoshi are transformed.

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